Early in my career, I was asked by my leader, “Where do you see yourself in the future?” and sadly, I didn’t really have an answer. It wasn’t that I lacked ambition; I had never really given much thought to what I wanted out of my career.
What I didn’t realize was that my lack of professional vision was stagnating my career. It wasn’t until I created a personal development plan with my leader that I could understand how I was doing myself a disservice.
As Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Until you can answer where you want to go with your career, you can’t determine if anyone one route is better than the next. Without a career plan and vision of where you want to be and, equally as important, what you don’t want, how do you make career decisions, choose a path, and plan to get there?
To better understand the topic of professional vision, let’s start with a definition.
What is a Professional Vision?
A professional vision is a clear picture of what you do and do not want out of your career and is unique to your professional goals, values, personal commitments, and responsibilities outside of work. It’s a mental picture of what you aspire to that shapes your actions and decisions.
Your professional vision may change throughout your career. Your career aspirations in your 20s may not align with what you want or your lifestyle and commitments in your 40s. Priorities can change, and so should your professional vision. That’s why it’s essential every so often to re-evaluate what you want out of your work life.
How Do You Create a Professional Vision?
A professional vision aims to give you a crystal clear picture of your desired future state. It is a mental picture of a point in time in the future of how you see yourself - what you aspire to and what is important to you in your career and life.
Reflect on your career path to date and your personal values by answering the following questions that will help you uncover what is important to you and how it aligns with your professional vision.
- What do you enjoy doing at work?
- What has made you proud?
- Where do you excel?
- What do you dislike doing at work?
- What challenges would you love to tackle?
- How important is work-life balance?
- What are your life values?
- What personal responsibilities do you have?
- Are you willing to relocate or change companies for a promotion?
After this self-analysis, you will begin to form what you want out of your career. To take it one step future, put your intentions in writing, as it has been found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your intentions when you write them down. Your written professional vision will act as your north star when it comes time to make choices and decisions about your career.
In addition, use the vision for your career as the foundation for building your professional development plan, which is a document that outlines how you will go about obtaining the skills you’ll need to achieve your professional vision. Think of it this way: your professional vision is where you want to go, the endpoint, and your professional development plan is a roadmap for getting there.
Your personal development plan should answer the following questions:
- Area of Development: What do you want to learn/improve?
- Expected Steps: What do you need to do to learn/improve?
- Resources: What resources or support do you need?
- Priority: How does this compare in terms of importance to other areas?
- Timeline: When do you need to complete this?
We’ve created an easy-to-use, editable document so you can get started on building your own plan.
It’s better to be prepared and have time to think through what you want from your career than to be put on the spot if asked, “What’s your professional vision?” By self-reflecting on what you value, aligning with your career aspirations, and building your roadmap on how you’ll get, you’ll feel more confident and prepared to have a career conversation with your leader.